Shakespeare Uncovered (2012–…): Season 1, Episode 4 - The Tempest with Trevor Nunn - full transcript

Travel with director Trevor Nunn through the magical, mysterious world of the Bard's last complete play.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -
Just imagine...

you've been marooned
on a deserted island

for 12 years, when,

amazingly, the men who
conspired to put you here...

are shipwrecked in a storm

and are washed up defenseless

onto the same shore.

They're at your mercy.

So what are you gonna do?

This is a story of anger
and the search for revenge,

of paternal love and sacrifice,

all unfolding in
a magical world.

Along the way,
you'll see a creature

that's barely human,

an airy spirit conjured
from the elements,

a storm which stops as
mysteriously as it began.

It sounds like a work
of science fiction,

yet it comes from
the imagination

of a man writing 400 years ago.

It's the last complete play
by William Shakespeare.

It's "The Tempest."

I directed "The Tempest"

with Ralph Fiennes in
the leading role in 2011.

It was a play I'd
always wanted to do.

Alas, nothing of
our work was filmed,

but what still intrigues
me about this play

is what it tells us about
Shakespeare himself.

It's more ambitious than
anything he'd written before,

more radical in the
ideas it explores,

and more imaginative in the
kind of staging it demands,

and yet, he was
in his latter years

when he set himself
this challenge.


what he decides to do

at the end of his
writing lifetime

is an experiment.

This is an experimental play

that requires people to fly,

spirits to emerge
and shape shift,

apparitions, disappearing acts.

It's all experiment.

This was his last complete play.

I think it's also one
of his most personal,

almost autobiographical.

It's even possible that
Shakespeare, who was also an actor,

could have played
the leading role himself.

Shakespeare would have been 50

at the point of this play.

Prospero's 50.

Did he play Prospero?

Why not?

I mean, is it not
only his last play,

but his last performance?

Different film
versions of the play

go back to the very
earliest attempt in 1911.

But at its core, "The Tempest"
is the story of one man

and a choice he must make.

The man is Prospero,
Duke of Milan,

who's been betrayed
by his brother,

cast away on a boat with
his tiny daughter, Miranda.

Ahh. it's extraordinary.

Left to their
fate, they survive,

marooned on a deserted
island for 12 years.

Prospero is no ordinary man.

He's a magus, a magician,

who commands spirits
and the elements.

Special effects.

Through this magic, his art,

he has discovered that
his treacherous brother

and co-conspirators will
pass his island on their ship.

Here are the villains.

He conjures up a tempest

that hurls his enemies
onto his shore.

But what will he do with them?

What will happen

when his past and
present lives collide?

This play will ask
huge questions.

How do we become
the people we are?

What does it mean to be human?

And what happens when for
the first time we fall in love?

While the play tackles
all of these issues,

the central theme
is the relationship

between a father
and his daughter

alone together for 12 years.

I think the relationship
between Prospero and Miranda

is one of the great interests
and sort of puzzles of the play,

because, really, the
action kind of rests on it.

I have done nothing
but in care of thee.

There's obviously
a lot of love there.

It's a very, very
intimate relationship.

But also from Prospero's
side, there's a real sense

of controlling of her

and controlling
of her personality

and wanting her to do certain
things and not do other things.

And so immediately there's
a kind of tension there.

Lend thy hand

and pluck my magic
garments from me.

Since the age of 3,

her father has been the
only person in her life.

This play is a paternal fantasy

about the daughter
that I could raise

if I had her to myself.

If I didn't have
mothers coddling her

and if I didn't have other
people getting in the way

of the person that she could
become if I were to shape her.

Lie there, my art.

Controlling he frequently is,

but Prospero is clearly
devoted to his daughter.

He says kind of,
you saved my life,

because you were in the boat.

Then I felt there was
something worth living for.

It's very, very potent
between the two of them.

It's an arresting premise...

A father and a daughter
surviving a nightmare journey,

drifting in an open boat
before finally reaching an island.

Shakespeare has invented a story

of people surviving
marooned on a bare island.

They don't really
know where they are.

This is 150 years ahead
of "Robinson Crusoe."

So where did Shakespeare
get this idea from?

We know he had access
to the London bookstores.

And we know that like
screenwriters today,

Shakespeare reworked and
embellished existing plots.

But uniquely, for this play,

there was no
existing fictional story.

It's possible that
Shakespeare was influenced

by a real event.

"Chapter 6:

"A true reportery of the
wrecke and redemption

"of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight,

upon and from the
island of the Bermudas."

It's quite clear that one of
the most important events

that Shakespeare almost
certainly must be drawing on

is the expedition of a ship
called the "Sea Venture"

that sets out for the Americas
in the summer of 1609,

around 500 people on this boat.

And it disappears.

"One: A most dreadful tempest."

We know it's actually
stranded in Bermuda,

but from the
contemporary perspective,

this is a disaster.

"so huge a sea brake upon
the poope and quarter, upon us,

as it covered our shippe
from stern to stem."

There are many accounts.
William Strachey's,

the famous account, that
Shakespeare may have had access to.

But there are any number
of other little pamphlets

that report this drastic and
difficult sort of expedition.

"Sea brakes in. Leake cannot be
found... which cannot but be found."

"The waters still increasing.

We were now sinking."

These sorts of episodes are absolutely
embraced by the reading public

in early 17th century England.

This sort of
voyage of discovery.

"Utter darkness.

Their laboure for life three
dayes and foure nights."

And just as with
Shakespeare's story,

all the shipwrecked
passengers survived.

So then a year later,

or almost a year
later, in May 1610,

the wrecked people have
managed to create their own boat

and they arrive in Jamestown.

And it seems to me
that these same themes

of individuals being shipwrecked

on an island in the
middle of nowhere,

who somehow eventually
recovered and go on their way,

it's too much of a coincidence

not to have been
used by Shakespeare.

The first known
performance of the play

was just over a year
after this story came out.

So Shakespeare may have
been inspired by a real event.

But how was he going to get his
magus to create a shipwreck on stage.

Shakespeare needed
a way of manipulating

what his audience
was seeing and hearing,

finding new ways of
playing with light and illusion.

But his theater, the
Globe, was open to the sky,

hardly ideal.

Flying spirits would need to
be suspended from the ceiling.

Disappearing acts
needed darkness.

He needed a theater with a roof,

where they could
act by candlelight.

At the Globe today, they
still recognize that problem.

Clearly, a lot of the atmosphere

of this magic world of the play

would have been
so much more potent

in an interior candlelit space

than in an open-air space

where you would
see it in the afternoon.

I mean, I think candlelight
is a massive game changer.

It makes light sources
unspeakably powerful.

If you walk onto the
Globe stage with a lantern,

you look like a bit of an idiot,

'cause it's sort of meaningless.

If you come into a
darkened room with a lantern

and that's the only
light source in the room,

you're a very, very
powerful presence.

So Shakespeare and his
company began performing

in an existing indoor theater,

the Blackfriars.

No one knows exactly
what it looked like.

But across the Atlantic, a
reconstruction has been created.

In Staunton, Virginia, they're
rehearsing the opening scene

of "The Tempest,"

the shipwreck.


Here, master. What cheer?

Good, speak to the mariners!

Heigh, my hearts! Cheerly,
my hearts, yaw, yaw!

This is a daytime rehearsal
with the house lights on,

but it reveals another
demand of the play...

Dramatic sound effects.

At the beginning
of "The Tempest,"

has this huge storm,

and so trying to figure out

how Shakespeare
might have staged it

when he didn't have
smoke machines,

he didn't have all of the
special effects that we have

in the 21st Century.

So trying to figure out
how we can aurally create

the idea of big, huge
storm is what we were after.

How do you get a huge
storm and a shipwreck

in the Blackfriars Playhouse?

It's like the
beginning of a film.

"The Tempest" as a play takes
you by the throat immediately.

It opens in the middle of
this storm. We're on a ship.

Hence! What cares these
roarers for the name of King?

To cabin!

The ship is going down.

There are sailors
running across the stage,

the guests on the ship
running the other way.

No one knows what's going on.

At this stage, not even the
audience knows what's really going on,

because, in fact,
nothing is what it seems.

Take in the topsail!

These elements of
high drama and magic

have inspired many
different film versions.

But at the center of every "Tempest"
is this strange magus character,

the betrayed Duke Prospero.

He's created the storm.

He's stage-managing
all the action.

No one on the
ship will be harmed,

but they of course don't
know that and they're terrified.

We're in the company of a great

magician, conjurer, alchemist,

who can control the elements,

and indeed, almost
control people's destinies.

Somebody who seems
to be playing at God.

Therefore, he's
somebody to be feared.

Do we trust
Prospero? I don't know.

He's conjured up this
storm from nothing.

He's made it go away again.

He's actually brought
the ship safely into harbor.

And he's deposited
passengers quite carefully

on different
parts of the island.

And it's clear that
Prospero is setting this up

because he wants
to control this plot.

He's going to
bring them together,

But he's going to bring them together
when he wants them to be together.

And we don't really know
what is going to result from that.

He's brought his
brother and his enemies

to the same island on
which he struggled ashore.

They're in his power.

The play hinges
on a moral question.

What will he decide
to do with them?

A man who's a literary scholar with
a unique insight into moral problems

is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Prospero begins
"The Tempest," I think,

as somebody who is,
metaphorically as well as literally,

on an island.

He's stuck with himself.

And all that he's had to
say to himself for years

is, "I was treated badly. I was
treated badly. I was treated badly."

Prospero is very human,

because he wants
to take revenge.

And he wants it to be extreme.

He really wants to hurt
the people who've hurt him.

Prospero is... is a profoundly

angry, bitter, enraged person.


With absolute reason.

Full, absolutely
rightfully enraged.

But definitely with a burning
rage inside of his belly.

Prospero doesn't ever spell
out the intentions he has.

One of the main
questions of this play is,

will Prospero be
capable of forgiveness?

Having depicted the angry magus,

the play then reveals
Prospero the reassuring father.

He tells his daughter
for the first time

how they became castaways.

How came we ashore?

By providence divine.

From the first, Prospero's
words to Miranda

are some of the
tenderest in the play.

He talks about his
daughter as dear.

He tells here that
she saved his life.

He's trying to instruct
her about the world

she's about to enter that
she has no experience in,

and he's worried about it. She's
15 and he's worried about it.

He is my teacher.

I have very few
memories before this place.

It's just the given. It's
the given circumstances.

And I know that my
father talks to spirits,

and I know that my
father runs this storm,

and I know that he's
probably got a purpose

for all of these
things that he's doing.

But, uh, I feel
like it's just a given

that I understand
that's he's got this magic

and he's got this ability
to talk to the spirits.

Prospero and Miranda
are not completely alone.

Their fellow inhabitant

is among Shakespeare's
strangest characters...


A creature possibly inspired

by the talk in
Shakespeare's local tavern.

The Globe Theatre was
close to the river Thames,

and at that time,

London was one of the
busiest ports in the world.

Sailors returning
from distant parts

would of course exaggerate

about the weird and wonderful
creatures that they had seen.

But strange creatures,
half man, half animal

were thought to exist.

And, indeed, drawings
were made of them,

and those drawings were printed.

The monstrous Caliban
may be a fantasy,

but dramatically, he's
essential and disturbing.

I want to try something...

Really attack all of them.

These Royal Shakespeare
Company actors

are rehearsing the first scene
between Caliban and Prospero.

OK, let's get working.

Something has happened

that has resulted in
Prospero enslaving Caliban.

Slave! Come hie!

The relationship
is now full of anger.

Come forth!

As wicked dew as e'er my mother

brushed with raven's feather

from unwholesome fen

drop on you both!

Each actor in every production

has to decide exactly what
Prospero feels about Caliban.

I talked to Jonathan Slinger,
an unusually youthful Prospero.

Your Prospero, does he
think of Caliban as his servant,

as his slave?

Does he think of
him as an animal?

I think they have
been on a real journey.

Their relationship has been
on an incredible journey.

Which is articulated beautifully,
actually, by Caliban himself,

who talks about Prospero
arriving and treating him very well,

very nicely, giving him food.

When thou camest first,

Thou strok'st me and
made much of me,

wouldst give me
water with berries in 't...

And then I loved thee.

He then betrayed me, horribly,

by trying to rape my daughter.

And now, he is
very much my slave.


I don't think of
Caliban as an animal.

He is a being

that I have had enormous
love and respect for

in the past.

But no longer.

And, uh... and I am
punishing him terribly.

For all of Caliban's
beastly behavior,

it's typical of
Shakespeare's humanism

that he should also give him
one of the most poetic speeches.

Be not afeard;

the isle is full of noises,

sounds and sweet airs,

that give delight and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand
twangling instruments

will hum about mine ears,

and sometime voices

that, if I then had
waked after long sleep,

will make me sleep again:

and then, in dreaming,

the clouds methought
would open and show riches

ready to drop upon me that,

when I waked, I
cried to dream again.

Quite where our
sympathies should lie

is also complicated
by the question,

who really owns this island?

Certainly Caliban is enslaved

against his will.

And certainly Prospero
has come to an island

where he himself
is not native born

and is taking it over
and becoming its ruler.

So the structure is
a colonial structure.

In our century,

it seems obvious to link
Caliban and colonialism.

But is that what
Shakespeare had in mind?

The play is about power,
freedom, and slavery,

but that's not the
same as Empire.

It would help to
get a clearer idea

of where Shakespeare
intended his island to be.

So, this, for the late 16th,
early 17th century Englishman

is what the world looks like.

And what you can
see is obviously...

This looks quite modern.

There you can see Britain.

You can see the
Mediterranean very clearly here.

So even by this time, by
the very early 17th century,

you have quite a
comprehensive world picture.

Imagery like this,
would it be known

or would it be a very
specialist knowledge?

No, it would have been known.
They would have been able

to situate themselves
within this world.

It has to be said, doesn't it,

that the bulk of the
references in the play

are to this Mediterranean world.

I mean, Caliban was the son
of Sycorax, the witch of Algiers,

and there isn't a suggestion
in the play, is there,

that we're dealing with what came
to be known as the New World?

No, because look at
this. Look at this map.

If you look at North
America and South America,

this is quite approximate.

OK, Columbus
discovers it in 1492.

But the English have been
nowhere in that process.

Only from the turn
of the 17th Century

when they start
settling in Virginia.

What the English audience knows

is this Mediterranean world,
which is what the play's describing.

But in trying to give the play

more contemporary relevance,

productions often make the
legacy of European colonialism

the central theme of
this 17th century play.

Indeed, the problem
with a colonial take

is that, of course,
Prospero becomes

just another white colonialist

who's taken over
somebody's country.

And that isn't his story.

Wherever this island may be,

Prospero commands a
spirit servant here, Ariel.

Using his magic, he
released Ariel from a tree

in which he'd been imprisoned
by Caliban's mother, a witch.

Ariel belongs to the elements.

There's Caliban, who represents

something very
close to the earth,

something visceral and physical.

And then there's
Ariel, who represents

all of the opposite
things of that.

The spirit and something
sacred and something magical.

Something otherworldly.

And the human being is pulled
between those poles, you know?

The relationship between
Prospero and his spirit is complex,

as Prospero has
promised him freedom,

but only after Ariel has
helped him fulfill his plan.

My liberty!

Ariel, throughout the play,

from the first moment
that we see him, really,

is saying to Prospero,
"When am I going to be free?

"When are you
going to let me go?

"You promised me that
if I sorted out this storm,

you would free me."

Thou didst promise
To bate me a full year.

Ariel is definitely
another slave, you know.

Caliban's one
and Ariel's another.

I thank thee most...

But I suppose
there's this sort of...

intimacy and love there for
the person who is his captor.

The magus is
about to call on Ariel

for a very different part
of his shipwreck plan.

Prospero has brought
his enemies ashore,

not only to settle an old score,

but to secure a new
future for his daughter.

One of the survivors
is Ferdinand,

the son of the King of Naples.

Using an enchanted song,
Ariel must deliver this young man

into the presence of Miranda.

Where should this music be,

in the air or the earth?

It's the first young
man she has ever seen.

What is it?

A spirit?

No, wench, this
gallant that thou see'st

was in the wreck.

Sir, it carries a brave form.

He can put Ferdinand
and Miranda together,

but he can't make
them fall in love.

That's going to happen
or it's not going to happen.

I might call him a thing divine,

for nothing natural
I ever saw so noble.

We call it love at first sight,

but it's not that deep love.

It's a tickle.

It's, um, sexual intrigue.

It's a sexual interest
that has never existed,

I believe, in her body.

O, you wonder! If
you be maid or no?

No wonder, sir,
but certainly a maid.

My language. Heavens.

But then suddenly,
Prospero interrupts.

A word, good sir.

I fear you've done
yourself some wrong.

A word.

Why speaks my
father so ungently?

If a virgin and your
affection not gone...

Prospero has his
reservations about Ferdinand.

Soft, sir! One word more.

The Prince has something
of a playboy past.

Young Ferdinand has
been 'round the block

with young ladies various.

And Prospero is anxious

that the relationship
between him and his daughter

should be not just a
thing of physical attraction.

What he wants is
a meeting of minds.

One word more, I charge
thee that thou attend me!

Thou dost here usurp
the name thou owest not,

and hast put thyself
upon this island as a spy

to win it from
me, the lord on 't.

No, as I am a man!

There's nothing ill can
dwell in such a temple.

Follow me! Speak
not you for him.

Prospero's worried that if the
teenage girl is too easily won,

Ferdinand won't value her.

But he can come across as
the archetypal competitive male.

And dynamic changes if
Prospero is played by a woman.

In a new film, Helen
Mirren plays the part.

This gallant which thou
see'st was in the wreck.

I might call him a thing divine,

for nothing natural
I ever saw so noble.

I felt that it was a
very strong addition.

The play doesn't change,

but the perception in the
audience's mind changes

watching a woman doing
and saying these things.

They are both in
either's powers.

But this swift business
I must uneasy make,

lest too light winning
make the prize light.

It's a fantastically
different reaction

that this Prospero has,

because there's no testosterone.

When a young man comes calling

for the daughter of Prospero,

there's a lot of
competition going on.

Here, with Prospero
it's really much more

of a tigress protecting her cub.

She knows exactly what can
happen with this young man

if he's not true.

Thou think'st there is no
more such shapes as he,

having seen but him and Caliban.

Foolish child,

to the most of men
this is a Caliban

and they to him are angels.

My affections are
then most humble.

I have no ambition
to see a goodlier man.

It's still a parent-child

so that is the constant.

Um, but, yes, it lost that
slightly, I thought, to me,

because I... slightly
patriarchal controlling thing

that I always felt when
it's played by a man.

Whenever you see a
work by Shakespeare,

it's natural to wonder how much of it
comes from his own life experience.

But "The Tempest" provokes
more of these speculations

than any other of his plays.

It's April the 23rd,

and Shakespeare's
birthday is being celebrated

in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Now he's world famous,
but even during his lifetime,

he was known in his hometown
as a successful playwright,

with his own coat
of arms, a family,

and a reputation to protect.

It's not impossible
that Prospero's fears

were rather close to his own.

All writers draw on their
experience as they write plays,

and we know that at the time

Shakespeare is
writing this play,

"The Tempest,"
he's a little bit worried

about one of his daughters,

his daughter Judith,
who is involved

with a man who may
not be quite reliable.

And at some level, those...
those paternal anxieties

are part of the play.

The man his daughter
was intent on marrying

had made another woman pregnant.

Inevitably, things
that happen in your life

inform your work.

So there is that concern
with actually testing

a husband to check
that they are suitable

before a daughter marries them,

which, of course, is played
out in "The Tempest".

We can't be sure
of this, of course,

but Shakespeare the
experimental dramatist

was certainly
determined to explore

bold, fundamental ideas.

Shakespeare uses
his magical island

to investigate the truth
about human nature.

Are we bestial or benign?

On another side of the island,

his treacherous brother
and the co-conspirators

are trying to understand where they
are and what's happening to them.

You have cause,
So have we all, of joy.

But amongst them
is the aging Gonzalo.

No traitor he, but a courtier
always loyal to Prospero.

And in this virgin world,

he dreams of his
perfect society.

All things in common nature

should produce without
sweat or endeavor

treason, felonies,
sword, pike, knife, gun

or need of any engine,
would I not have.

Anticipating Karl Marx,

he says that in future,

everything should
be held in common.

There should be no usury...

The making of money
out of lending money,

no weapons, no wars.

Everything should
be produced by nature.


I think it's a tabula
rasa, the island.

It's a clean slate.

There's no connection
to civilization.

So you have to see
how nature or nature,

how embedded is it in humanity.

You have this court
come to the island.

They have no castles.
They have nothing.

And yet, all what
is nature in them,

which is the deceit,
starts up again.

You know, their character
is embedded in them.

And you watch this
incredible duplicitous nature

come out in the conspiracy.

As sleep overtakes
the other survivors,

Prospero's usurping
brother Antonio

tries to persuade his crony

to commit murder;

to gain for both of
them more wealth

and more power.

I remember you did supplant
your brother Prospero.

True. And look how well
my garments sit upon me,

Much feater than before.

Even in a new land,
in an ideal society,

the darker human
instincts will always emerge.

As the play continues,

Shakespeare delves even deeper
into the darker side of human nature.

Caliban comes across two
surviving drunken shipmates...

A jester and a butler.

And together, they
strike a deadly deal.

Caliban, desperate
for his freedom,

wants Prospero dead.

He tells them how, in detail,

they must kill the magus.

There thou mayst brain her,

or with a log batter her skull;

or paunch her with a stake; or
cut her wezand with thy knife.

If they will kill Prospero,

then the butler will
be king of the island.

Miranda, his concubine...

She will become
thy bed, I warrant.

And bring thee
forth a brave brood.

Monster, I will kill this witch.


The deal is done.

Prospero is now a
dead man walking.

♪ Thought is free ♪

♪ Grog them and flog them ♪

So can anyone be
trusted with power?

This question
underpins the play.

It even applies to
Prospero himself.

Prospero's power
is rather different.

His magic comes
from his knowledge;

his book.

An idea familiar to a
seventeenth century audience.

In the early modern period,

magic is a practice.

Not anyone can be
a wise man, a magus.

You have to work at it;

you have to study the
books and the records.

You have to explore,
scientifically, by experimentation,

the different
permutations of chemicals,

the different types of dye,

the different
movements of the stars.

If it's handled in
the wrong way,

it can become ungodly.

And one of the keen things
I think we see in the play

is that delicate balance
between good and bad magic.

This tension recurs
throughout "The Tempest".

How should the
power of knowledge

or science be used?

It's a timeless and
universal question, of course

and has prompted a
very different version

of Shakespeare's story.

These magnificent scenes

in striking Eastman color
stagger the imagination.

But it is, look! I mean, that
is striking Eastman color.

In this sci-fi take on the play,

the island is a
planet in outer space.

When you reach
the forbidden planet,

you will meet
Dr. Morbeus, played by...

Prospero is a scientist.

The doctor is sole owner
of this fabulous world.

There is a Miranda

and a Ferdinand.

I didn't bring my bathing suit.

What's a bathing suit?

Oh, murder.

There's a mysterious power...

Conceal a strange
and evil force.

But the essential
question remains the same.

Can the central character
be trusted with special power?

Somehow, he
doesn't understand it.

And yet, in his dream states,

in his unconscious rages,

he lets loose this
monstrous force.

But does he ever use
it for anything benign?

I mean, Prospero can be punitive

and mean-spirited,

but he can also be
generous with his magic

and celebratory with his magic.

Yes, he is benign.

But he also is marshalling

a power that
enables the dark side.

And it is, in the end,

a film about him facing up

to the responsibility
that he has,

having played with this power.

Back on Shakespeare's island,

the benign side of
Prospero's nature

seems to be winning...

At least as far as his
daughter is concerned.

Ignoring the plot
against his life,

he's concentrating
intently on her courtship.

Pray, Set it down and rest you.

Disobediently, she's
gone to see Ferdinand.

Secretly, she thinks, but in
fact, Prospero is watching.

My father's hard at study.
Pray now, rest yourself.

He's safe these three hours.

Poor worm, thou art infected.

There's just an element of bad
taste about that, isn't there, you know,

in hiding and
overhearing and spying.

We come to realize that
it's entirely protectively.

Pray, give me that.

Love is a tricky
thing, you know.

He has to be tested, you know.

If he says that he loves
her, does he really love her?

Prospero absolutely has to
know what kind of a guy he is.

What is your name?

Miranda. O my father,

I have broke your
hest to say so.

Clearly by now, Miranda
is ready to assert herself.

If Miranda didn't have her
moment of disobedience,

I would feel much less
enthusiastic about her.

In fact, she does want to
hang out with Ferdinand,

even at the cost of
disobeying her father's wish.

Do you love me? Oh, heaven...

She has been brought
up to be the obedient child.

But in fact, there
is fire in her.

I am a fool to weep
at what I am glad of.

Fair encounter Of two
most rare affections.

Prospero is starting to realize

that Ferdinand does
love his daughter.

He stays and he watches them.

I am your wife...

if you will marry me.

And actually, it's quite
touching in performance

to see him watching
his only daughter

fall in love with another man.

Prospero's beginning to let go.

He's initiated their union

and tested the prince.

Now, he's ready to
approve their marriage.

The Globe actors are
trying out the scene.

Choosing to forget the
would-be murderers,

Prospero gives himself to
his daughter's joyous moment.

Then, as my gift, and
thine own acquisition

worthily purchased,
take my daughter.

But he can't quite let go.

He gives a stern
warning to Ferdinand

not even to think about
pre-marital sex with Miranda.

Ferdinand protests
his innocence.

The strongest suggestion
our worser genius can,

shall never melt
mine honor into lust.

Fairly spoke.

Sit, then.

And talk with her.

She is thine own.

Prospero creates
a magical display;

a musical entertainment

calling on celestial goddesses
to celebrate the betrothal.

It's a moment of exuberant joy.

I find the marriage
ceremony rather interesting,

because it's actually... it's an
aborted marriage ceremony.

He brings them together
for nuptial masque,

and Prospero suddenly
stops it before it's finished,

and says, "No, that's enough.
I don't want that anymore."

But Shakespeare
has another purpose.

The vanishing vision gives
Prospero his most penetrating insight.

In one of the most poetic
and, for me, consoling speeches

Shakespeare ever wrote,

Prospero addresses
the young couple

and talks about the fragility
and transience of life itself.

Our revels now are ended.

These our actors,
As I foretold you,

were all spirits, and

are melted into air,

into thin air.

And, like the baseless
fabric of this vision,

The cloud capp'd towers,
the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples,
the great globe itself,

Ye all which it
inherit, shall dissolve...

Climatically, in that speech,

he uses the phrase
"The great globe itself".

Now, partly, of course,
he means the world.

The globe. That's what
we refer to, the globe.

But it's the name
of his theater.

The great Globe itself.

All of our shows,
all of these things

that we created
here, will disappear.

They won't be around anymore.

In that way, I think it's a
hundred percent certain

that there is that
autobiographical ingredient.

And like this insubstantial

pageant faded...

Leave not a rack behind.

We are such stuff

As dreams are made on,

and our little life...

Is rounded with a sleep.

Everything in this life

is like a series of visions.

It's like a series
of seeds on stage.

But in the end, all we're doing

is writing on the sand,

and the next tide comes in,

and our beautiful
message is washed away.

Understand life in those terms.

We are such stuff As
dreams are made on,

and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.

There's a sort of wonderful
sense of inevitability,

I think that's what it is,

of the onward roll
of life and death,

life and death, life and death.

And that we are all
apart of that onward roll.

And there's nothing
we can do about it.

While he's turning over
these thoughts and feelings,

Prospero's given
another emotional jolt.

Ariel describes how he's brought

the group of conspirators
across the island,

where they wait paralyzed
in fear and distress.

Now, Prospero's non-human spirit

talks about human compassion.

That if you now beheld them,

your affections
would become tender.

Dost thou think so, spirit?

Mine would, master...

were I human.

Prospero thinks, "My God.

"If my spirit, Ariel,

"is so moved

"that he's saying
you have to forgive,

then that's what I have
to"... And everything changes.

Prospero decides
he will now make

the ultimate personal sacrifice.

He will surrender
his magical powers.

There's a special
poignancy in this surrender

if you think, as I do,

that Shakespeare is, in
part, writing about himself.

Shakespeare, like Prospero,

has spent years conjuring
with his imagination.

But after "The Tempest",
he will write no more plays.

Ye elves of hills,


standing lakes and groves...

Calling up his spirits
for one last time,

Prospero remembers his
extraordinary accomplishments.

Shakespeare, too, has
summoned countless visions

and brought the dead to life.

Graves at my command

have waked their sleepers

oped, and let 'em forth

by my so potent art.

But this rough magic

I here abjure,

I'll drown my book.

I think it's a
devastating moment

to let go of all of that.

But also, it's a kind of a growing
up moment for Prospero, Prospera.

Not just letting go of power...

Letting go of rage,
letting go of anger,

letting go of revenge.

It's kind of sad
and melancholic,

but it's full of understanding.

The connection I see between
Prospero and Shakespeare

makes this for me a
particularly moving speech.

I do think that "The Tempest"

is a farewell work,

but I didn't see

that final departure as
"I'm turning my back on you,

I'm abandoning you."

No. "I'm leaving you with
everything that I have to offer.

"And I want it to stay with you,

but I have to go."

Farewell, good-bye, I will
never see you again moment,

is something that
we all understand,

and have a very strong
emotional reaction to.

With so many very great artists,

the point comes, it seems,
where they see their own work,

their own utterance,

as having resolved nothing.

And they empty their hands.

A sense of the
all-powerful magical figure

manipulating stories,

suddenly saying, I
can't do this any longer,

I have to become human.

I think that is something
that's bound into

the really great artists' work.

But before Prospero
drowns his book,

he must finally come face
to face with his enemies,

the moment he's
dreamed of for years.

With the great final spell,

Prospero brings all his enemies

around him in a circle.

What's he going to do?

He confronts each one of them

with what they've done.

But for you, my brace of
lords, were I so minded,

I here could pluck his
highness' frown upon you

and justify you traitors:

at this time I
will tell no tales.

The devil speaks in him!

Oh, no.

For you, most wicked
sir, whom to call brother

would even infect my mouth,

I forgive thy rankest fault...

All of them.

And require My dukedom of thee,

which perforce, I know,
Thou must restore.

If thou be'st Prospero...

He has forgiven,
but it's been hard.

He's not gracious,
exactly, at the end.

He's really struggling. He's...

He's an aging,

angry, injured man

who's lived with
himself for a long time.

And he knows what he has to do,

and he grits his
teeth and he does it.

And that is, I think,

one of the most extraordinary
things about the play;

that the bitter,
savage, isolated

magus figure at the beginning

has become a
recognizable human being.

He's broken his magic wand

and he's joined the
human race again.

Finally Prospero must
be true to his spirit slave

and give Ariel the
freedom he years for.

That... that idea
that we are all

entitled to our freedom

is very potent in the play.

And Prospero keeps
his word with Ariel.

And the elements be free.

I love the end, 'cause
what he longs for

is just to no longer
be in a human form

and be a spirit, to
be with the wind,

you know, and the elements.

He's longing to sort
of dissolve into that.

Prospero seems to pardon
his would-be murderer,

Caliban, too.

It was a moment of
mutual recognition.

Of acceptance;

of full recognition
of the other.

And so, at the
end of his last play,

Shakespeare tells us the
struggle to achieve forgiveness

can be won.

Prospero has managed to forgive,

and in doing so, he's
also freed himself.

Again, the parallels between
Prospero and Shakespeare.

In an epilogue, Prospero,
no longer empowered,

makes a plea of
great simplicity.

He steps forward and
asks us, the audience,

to set him free.

"Now my charms
are all o'erthrown,

"And what strength
I have's mine own,

"Which is most faint.

"As you from crimes
would pardon'd be,

Let your indulgence
set me free."


After writing "The Tempest",

Shakespeare left London for good

and returned to Stratford.

And just two
years later, he died.

He was only 52.

I've worked in the theater

for all of my adult life,

and I can't begin to understand

how he could have worked

at such a pitch;

at such a scale

in such a short span of time.

For me, "The Tempest"
will always be exceptional,

not just because of its wisdom

and humanity,

but because more than
any of his other plays,

it leads us to the essence

of the man who wrote them.

My feeling is that
it's in "The Tempest"

through the
character of Prospero

that we get closest
to the workings

of the mind of that genius

William Shakespeare.